Joined: Jun 2005
Location: Eastern Cape, South Africa
Like I said, we go to sleep in deathly silence.
This is because there is no wildlife. I mean NO wildlife at all. We donít see a living thing, there is not even some droppings to show that something is around, no spoor at all and not even birds. It is like riding in the bush, but the only living thing is humans. Every hour or so we would pass one or two solitary figures pushing a bicycle.
The riding is still easy and pleasant.
And the bridges still gives us trouble.
Someone is going to ask, so I might as well tell. That red thing on Nardusís bike is an air horn. Why it is there is a long story.
When we planned for this trip I researched as much as was available re Niassa and Cabo Del Gado Provinces. One of the things I came across was a news item about two women who had been caught and eaten by lions in Cabo Del Gado. This was not good.
It was three months before the trip. Further research confirmed that these two women were victims number fifteen and sixteen in the same area. Sixteen people eaten by the same lions in a period of six months! Bloody hell! Why does the whole world not know about this? Here is a pride that preys specifically on humans; it should make international headlines.
Further research brought me to a research paper by Craig Packer. The mind blowing data is that from 1990 to 2004, in the Southern Tanzanian / Northern Mozambique area, lions have attacked over 800 people and killed over 500. What the fuck man? Eight hundred people! Several prides of lion and more than one generation of lions are eating people like they are a food group.
The methods followed by some of these lions was even more upsetting. They climb up the walls of the mud houses and then come crashing down into the house with the roof. We were on bikes, fast-food you know. And we were going to sleep out in the open. Tasty snacks just lying about.
I was less than comfortable with the whole idea I can tell you.
We were going to have to take some sort of preventative measures. Which measures was the question. When you are sleeping in the open you do not have any real options, if a lion is intent on eating you, heís gonna do so.
Here is the funny part. Our prevention plan was first up, air horns, to scare the bastards with noise. That is where this hooter on Nardusís handle bars comes in.
If we happen upon a pride of lion lying in the road unexpectedly, hit the hooter and ride straight at them. Except that about twenty km after fitting this magafter, Nardus is suddenly overcome by acute cold finger syndrome. The canister wore through against the mirror stalk and released all the compressed air onto his hand.
At the risk of ridicule I have to tell you about our other measures.
Our first line of defence is some fire crackers that Brian brought. Little bomb thingies that we can throw at them when they circle the fire. Sounds like gunshots.
These lions have also shown themselves to be unafraid of fire, so Brian got hold of an electric fence that are energized by six batteries. I carried this in my bag.
Should the lion just get pissed off by being shocked by our fence, I also had an air horn with me. I would wait for the big boy to be sniffing my tent and then scare the piss out of him.
The noise can of course just excite the bastard, and in light of a hut not being a real obstacle, my tent was never going to be much of a deterrent.
So I was also going to sleep with a can of mace. I could not find anything on whether it is effective on lions, but it is effective against bears and American mountain lion, so the odds are in my favour.
These are only effective at close range though. Studying many videos on the internet of people being mauled by lions, I have noticed that more often than not, the first bite is across the shoulders and chest, where the lion then holds on until the person dies of suffocation or what not.
That is why I will wait until he has me in his jaws and walks away with that cocky walk that they have when they caught something good. Then I will use my good arm to get the mace from my pocket and let him have the full shot straight up his nostril. That will sort him out. There is of course also the chance that he might clamp down on my head, but thatís what helmets are for. Iíll still get him up the nostril with a blast of hell fire.
Lastly I have my leatherman. Should the mace prove ineffective and things take too long for my sensibilities, Iíll just cut my own throat, you donít want to piss him off more by irritating him with a pocket knife.
Nardusís finger having defrosted, we continue, still with no sign of any life.
And of course still dealing with these confounded bridges. The biggest problem with these things are that should you try to cross normally, and your wheels do slip in between two logs, you are going to come off pretty fast. This is OK, but if your rider-less bike should topple over, your rims are going to be destroyed. Spokes all over and trip over.
Some leftovers from the war probably.
And some sign of life (or death).
We also move into an area where these beautiful rock domes come straight out of the veldt.
We also come across one or two small villages. In the park. All of them draw water from boreholes like this. And even in the park they still harvest wood.
These granite domes fascinate us.
Finally after 265km of riding in the park we come across the first antelope.
At the same time the terrain starts getting sandy. Lovely. This is more like the Mozambique I know.
Brian likes the sand so much, he lies down in it repeatedly. But he is up as quick as he goes down. He takes that Ďopen upí thing to a new level.
You know the riding is good when you have blood on your face.
We also now pick up a lot of animal spoor, including elephant. The reason, it appears, is that we are now near the Lugenda river. This being the dry season, the game congregate around the rivers.
When we get to Mecula, the only town in the park, we also drop in to the ranger station. They focus mostly on anti poaching it seems.
The reason we drop in there is that we intend going into the concession areas. Contacting the concession people proved fruitless from South Africa. It also proves fruitless by radio from the rangers. We donít want to be rude and crash through their area unannounced, but the ranger (another ex- South African) says he will keep trying to raise them on the radio.
We figure it thus: in these concession areas are villages, so it is not a case of a sole right of use thing. They do have the sole right to hunt and put up lodges, but we are not conducting business within their area, we are just passing through, so they lose no revenue.
On the way from Mecula to the Lugenda Bridge I have my first off at speed from a DS bike. I came off from the plastic many times at speed , but to date all my offs from a DS was at 30km/h or less.
I am the last rider and as the road is a well made, wide, fast one I sit at a relaxed 100-110km/h. I come upon a tributary with a cement causeway, so I donít back off the throttle. The causeway is low on the river and both the approach and the other side is cut down into the river bank. Too late I notice that my line ends about half a metre above the causeway. All I can do is whack the throttle open and pull to try and get the nose up.
When I land the bike bottoms really hard and it gets thrown back up into the air. In this fashion we fly across most of the causeway and come down right where the other bank rises up with a little 30cm step.
Coming down from the sky the suspension can not deal with this either and we again get thrown into the air going up the bank.
This time my backend comes around to the right, quite far, so I can see my saddlebag. This is the bag that is carrying ten liters of fuel, the other one is empty. I still have hope that I can save it if I can just keep things upright when we hit the ground in this sideways position at speed. I almost make it, managing to stay on top and get the backwheel behind the front.
Unfortunately we are pulled off line so much that we leave the road. This being a river bank the side of the road has a drainage ditch and a wall. When we go into the ditch I know that this is not going to end well. All I can do is try to stay on top as long as I can so that we go down at as slow a speed as possible. I believe we went into that ditch at about 80km/h.
Twice I use my right foot against my better judgment and twice it gets ripped past me and mangled between the ditch and my saddle bag. Then we go down. When the dust settles, it appears that there is no real damage except my right ankle that is good and well sprained. I am lucky.
When I get to the others on the Lugenda Bridge Hennie tells that he got caught out in the same way. He and Nardus was riding abreast with Hennie on my line when he also bottomed, flew, bottomed again and then rode most of the uphill balanced over his front wheel.
Our plan is to turn left just over the bridge and follow the Lugenda through Hunting Area C and Hunting Area B.
This is the bridge.
Itís late afternoon and we want to find a place to camp asap. Here we come across, or rather, are seeked out by tstetse fly. Phenominally quick, painfull, aggressive little fuckers. This is what they look like.
These things have evolved to follow and feast on herds of game. They sit patiently and wait for as long as it takes until something kicks up dust. Then they go mental.
Hennie is in front and his dust raises clouds of these things. I can see him surrounded by easily 50 tsetse fly. Behind him I have about 30 travelling with me. He is riding without a shirt.
When you stop you are swamped, they come in under the helmet. The only skin showing on me are a couple of centimeters between my glove and shirt. I get bitten here repeatedly while Iím riding at 30 odd km/h. The only times they sit still long enough for you to slap them is when they are feeding. And they bite hard. Remember, they are equipped to go through buffalo hide.
As we look for a place to camp it slowly becomes clear that when you stop and the dust settles, so do they. Thatís a good thing, otherwise we would not have been able to stop.
We finally make ourselves at home on the river bank.
That night it feels like being in the bush for the first time. Loads of animal spoor and a hippo that crashes around our camp site during the night.
Sort of ironic, the only place with animals are the hunting areas.